Guard, Reserve Leaders Highlight Crucial Role in Defense Operations


National Guard and Reserve leaders highlighted to Congress today the vital role their components play in defense operations around the world and the importance of equipping and modernizing these forces.

The heads of the National Guard Bureau, the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard, as well as the chiefs of the reserve commands of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps went before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee to discuss the fiscal year 2017 budget request.

"Your investment has resulted in the finest and most diverse National Guard I've witnessed throughout my career," Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said.

The passage of the bipartisan budget brought some "much-needed relief," he added.

But he warned against returning to sequestered levels of funding, saying that would shrink the National Guard to the smallest it has been since the Korean War at a time of complex security concerns, both at home and abroad.

"The challenge of maintaining a capable, accessible and affordable operational National Guard comes at a pivotal time in our history, where the actions we take now will set the course for future generations," Grass said in his written statement.

Guard and Reserve members are highly trained, bring unique insights to the job, and work seamlessly with their counterparts in the total force, the leaders noted.

Members have responded when the nation called, deploying around the globe and serving in crucial roles in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other defense and security operations, they said.

Supporting Most Capable Army in World

The chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, said his force supports the most capable Army the world has ever known. Army Reserve members, he said, provide enduring operational capabilities and strategic depth to the Army and the joint force.

"Because the Army Reserve comprises the majority of the Army's combat support and combat service support, the nation can afford nothing less than a ready, equipped and operational Army Reserve," he said.

He said his primary concern is maintaining the adequate levels of readiness to meet existing demands.  

While the current level of reserve training days is sufficient to provide ready forces to meet identified requirements, Talley said, those resources are not sufficient to build a force capable of responding to unforeseen contingencies.

"This committee's support is crucial to ensuring that we remain ready to provide support to the total force as unique current global requirements, respond to national emergencies and mobilize for contingency operations when our nation needs us most," he added.

Challenges in Fiscal Environment

The military leaders acknowledged the challenges of addressing security threats and current demands, while operating in a restricted fiscal environment.

The chief of Navy Reserve, Vice Adm. Robin R. Braun, said aircraft recapitalization is her No. 1 equipping priority.

"Fiscal constraints demand that we focus on extending the service life of our hardware," she said. "However, each has a finite lifespan."

The budget request funding for the Guard and Reserve is contained within the budget requests of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, committee chairman Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi noted. The amount for this funding totals $46.6 billion for fiscal year 2017, he said, pointing out that the request is $400 million less than the current level.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)